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5 Essential Local Dishes to Try in Melaka

Rich in history and alive with culture, Melaka is a city that any visitor to Malaysia should not miss. Within the city is a beautiful blend of flavours and cultures that have combined to make Melaka’s unique cuisines that speak to its heritage. 

With the likes of ayam pongteh and satay celup, Melakan food is unlike any other, spanning the homey Nyonya cuisine to the fiery Kristang cuisine. To help guide you through the state’s diverse cuisine, here are five essential dishes that you need to try for a taste of Melaka. 

Devil curry

Not your typical chicken curry, Devil Curry, also known as curry Debal, is part of the Kristang cuisine that has grown to be a Melakan favourite. This spicy dish gets its name from the word “Debal”, which means leftovers in the Kristang language, as it was historically made a couple of days after Christmas with leftovers from the festive meals and on other special occasions. Today, you’ll find the dish in Eurasian homes and restaurants, where it is served at any time of year.

A blend of Malaysian culinary traditions and Portuguese-style cuisine, Devil Curry is flavoured by a spice paste made up of red chillies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, turmeric, nutmeg, mustard seed, and candlenuts. The addition of vinegar adds another dimension to the rich curry, which is usually served with chicken and potatoes. Get your fix at The Mansion at J&J Corner in the Portuguese Settlement area.

Ayam pongteh

This popular Peranakan chicken stew is one of the signature dishes of the Baba Nyonya community in Melaka that blends Chinese and Malay influences. Made primarily with taucheo (fermented soy beans), soy sauce, aromatics such as garlic, onions, and ginger, and gula Melaka, ayam pongteh is a homey and heartwarming dish that is beloved by locals all over. 

You can get your fix of this dish at local Nyonya restaurants such as Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant and Donald and Lily’s.

Chicken rice ball

Perhaps one of the most popular dishes of the state, chicken rice balls are a Melakan staple, representing the state’s take on the national favourite, chicken rice. As its name suggests, the dish combines steamed chicken and, of course, balls of chicken rice.

A combination of the juicy chicken, aromatic rice, and slightly salty chicken essence make for the perfect bite. Get your fill of this quintessential Melakan dish at Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball on Lorong Hang Jebat or Huang Chang Chicken Rice.

Nyonya laksa

Just one of Malaysia’s many iterations of laksa, Nyonya laksa is an amalgamation of Chinese and Malay culinary influences in one bowl of heartwarming and comforting laksa. The spice base, made of fresh turmeric, dried chilli, belacan (dried shrimp paste), garlic, shallots, galangal, lemongrass, and candlenuts, is combined with coconut milk and stock to make the punchy broth.

A typical bowl of Nyonya laksa is topped with a hardboiled egg, tofu puffs, thinly sliced cucumbers, daun kesum (laksa leaves), beansprouts, and a dollop of sambal. Some of the most sought after bowls of Nyonya laksa can be found at 486 Baba Low, Calanthe Art Café, and Restoran Yung Lai Siang. 

Satay celup

No list of must-try Melakan dishes would be complete without satay celup. One of the most famous street foods hailing from the state, satay celup comprises skewered meat or seafood that is dunked in a fragrant peanut sauce made with a base of peanuts, dried chilli, garlic, and gula Melaka. Most satay celup experiences follow a self-service format, so you’re responsible for picking out the skewers you’d like and preparing it on your own. 

A popular destination for satay celup is Capitol Satay Restaurant, where you can feast your eyes on coolers filled with plates of skewered meats, seafood, and vegetables. However, be prepared for a wait when visiting this restaurant as crowds are not an uncommon sight. 

Source : Tatler Asia